It feels as if we barely had a chance to embrace summer, before the Halloween parties, pumpkin soups and cosy jumpers are out. And as much as I personally try to cling onto my shorts and flip-flops, the chilly winds and changing colours are a sure sign that Autumn is here.
Autumn is a time of transition. Trees and shrubs are quietly shedding their leaves. There is a subtle browning of the earth. Temperatures are definetly dropping. Wildlife is more scare, either migrated or preparing for the cold winter. And the wind is slowly gathering strength, carrying the tides of winter on its breath.
Autumn harbors a certain emptiness which can leave us feeling exposed and a little raw, but it is also filled with possibility as a time when we can also strip down to a quiet essence of being and embrace more simplicity in our lives.
Yoga helps us do that by allowing us to slow down. When we do a yin or restorative practice, we activate our rest and digest response and create the right conditions for our bodies, minds and gut to feel soothed and nurtured.
We started October with a wonderful day exploring gut health. In the morning, our Yoga practice focussed on twists and on heating and grounding poses, which we are carrying on throughout the winter. In the afternoon, we moved to the kitchen to explored gut flora and made some delicious water and dairy kefir with Tiffany.
According to Ayurvedic philosophy, Autumn embodies vata, the element of air and space, and prana (the vital breath, essence of life). Vata governs movement in the body and activates the nervous system and the processes of elimination. The qualities of vata are cool, dry, rough, light, changeable, irregular, and moving and because of vata’s association with the nervous system, its state is often reflected in our mental health. When vata energy abounds, our bodies and minds can become overwhelmed and out of balance so we may feel unsettled, ungrounded and unstable.
Our Yoga practice can help us combat this shift by fostering internal balance through warming and grounding postures and breathing exercises of which I suggest below a few to incorporate in your autumnal daily practice.
Nourishment from Within
Autumn is also the season for viruses and bacteria but we can protect us from a cold by keeping active with appropriate exercise and by looking after our immune system with a good diet which nourishes our gut flora. Root vegetables, stews, soups, porridge, broths…are yummy and healthy. It’s so important to eat well in this season, to prepare the body for the challenges of winter. Make sure your recipes are nourishing and warming with plenty of spices and grounding vegetables. For example, think about adding lots of onions, garlic and ginger as they have anti-inflammatory properties and destroy free radicals. You could also introduce pro and pre biotics to your daily diet with drinks like kefir and kombucha or food like sauerkraut, miso and kimchi.
Suggestions for an Autumn Practice
Warm up slowly and include some joint rotations. Move with intention and fluidity. Ground the hands and feet on the mat whenever possible, avoiding jumping between postures.
Alternate Nostril Breathing is very balancing and perfect for this time of year.
Cat Cow is perfect for warming up the spine and gently massaging the internal organs
Sun Salutations will warm the body ready for the rest of the practice
Grounding and Warming Postures: Warrior One and Two, Tree Pose is ideal for grounding and balancing so a win-win one.
Twists/ Side Stretches: Revolved Triangle Pose, Half Lord of the Fishes Pose, Noose Pose, Supine Spinal Twist
Backbends: Bow Pose, Bridge Pose, Camel Pose
Child’s Pose – This is another pose that is perfect for helping you feel grounded and balanced. Make sure you rest your forehead onto the mat to relax your Ajna Chakra (third eye).
Finally, the best way to balance out Vata energy is to slow down, to conserve energy bringing peace and balance within. Meditate more, read more, rest more. Energy is easily depleted in the colder months (especially when you catch that dreaded cold). If you are a naturally energetic person with an active lifestyle, and feel you must keep going then ensure you are eating more warming foods to make up for this lost energy.